Joseph Jermey created a self portrait along side his classmates, taught by Laura Nelson at FSS. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Identity Art Project challenges youth

This art collaboration launches at 7 p.m. tonight at The Arts Station

One-hundred and fifty students from Isabella Dicken Elementry School, Fernie Academy and Fernie Secondary School teamed up with 10 local artists to create works of art that explored the concept of youth’s identity as Canadians.

This was in commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Students explored ideas such as what makes them proud to be Canadian, what individuals they feel best represent Canada on a local, national and international stage, and what places, both locally and nationally, do they identify as uniquely Canadian and why.

Children of all ages explored these themes through multiple art forms.

The schools received money through a government grant which helped make this collaboration possible.

At Fernie Secondary School, four artists helped students create five different projects. Upon completion, the pieces were displayed along with other works of art by other schools, in The Arts Station. The grand opening of the exhibit was on Wednesday, April 26, and all works of art will be on display until Tuesday, May 23.

Laura Nelson was one artist working with students at the secondary school. After spending some time working with the kids, they agreed to create stylized portraits of themselves through the use of shapes, as well as light and dark coloured paint. Along with this, students chose three words, which described them as individuals. She worked with the students for three weeks.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Nelson, who explained that the students had to remove themselves from the traditional form of painting, and visualize an end product, once all the shapes came together to form a face.

Nelson saw the students as timid at first, but was happy to see them gain courage and become excited as time progressed.

“The idea around the discussions we had, was that they are the faces of Canada, and the building blocks of Canada’s future,” said Nelson. “We talked about, what positive characteristics do you bring to Canada?”

Portraits were presented on boxes, representing the building blocks they are. One space was left as a mirror, allowing the viewer to become a part of the display.

Nelson recalled a young student, when presented with the task of identifying himself in three words, stopped to ponder the idea.

“You could tell that he wasn’t just thinking about important words that were cool to have, he was like, what am I about? What do I have to offer?” said Nelson, who added that one word he chose was empathy.

“That made the whole project worthwhile for me,” she said.

Jeanne Parker worked with students to create an encaustic work of art. Local potter Kerri Holmes, worked with kids to create an assembly of Canadian-themed clay tiles.

Jessica Bird created a collage out of 10 individually painted canvases. When put together, they all form a Maple Leaf, each taking on a different aspect of the vast country we live in.

Standing above the collage, all the pieces form together.

For Bird, working with the students has been extremely rewarding. This experience has sparked a passion in her for teaching, which she may pursue in the near future.

“It’s just all come together so beautifully,” said FSS art teacher, Mrs. Arnold. “Looking at the opportunity the students have had; 30 students being able to work, 10 kids each with the artists, has just been an incredible growth process.

“Plus being able to see, that people can have a lifelong passion for art, is I think one of the things that you are really instilling in the students when you bring the artists in.”